Fela Kuti

Best Best of Fela Kuti

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More than two years after his death, the first coordinated reissue campaign of Fela Kuti material began with this collection, a double-disc set including 13 of his best-known jams. Beginning with three tracks from 1972 (the second disc also has a track from that year), The Best Best of Fela Kuti ranges through his entire career, though the focus is appropriately on the '70s. Kuti's infectious combo of high-stepping soul revival and African township jazz has never been equaled. And his band was chocked with excellent musicians, starting with the keyboards and saxophone of its leader but also including propulsive drummer Tony Allen, baritone saxophonist Lekan Animashaun, trumpeter Tunde Williams, and bassist Franco Aboddy. As good as the music is, The Best Best of Fela Kuti really shines when it comes to the songwriting. It's an excellent primer on Kuti's various protest targets -- the oppressive Nigerian government and military, the increasing Westernization of Africa, unnecessary violence, hypocrisy, and pride -- and wisely includes explanatory notes for each track. The editing and compilation work are also done very well. Though many of the tracks had to be modified down to the ten-minute range, the flow is natural and very smooth. The one caveat is the detrimental effect of diminishing returns; Kuti's style was practically trademarked, and after over 150 minutes of jams, the tracks tend to blend together and obscure their individual significance. Overall though, this is an incredibly important work; it's the first truly historical item on Kuti and should finally bring the magic of Fela Kuti to Western audiences.

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